PR is all about building and maintaining good relationships and positive sentiment with your audience. In our digitalised society, lots of customers form their initial impressions of your business based on review pages. This means that you must view customer reviews as one of the most effective sales tools in today’s marketplace.
Long before a consumer is even thinking of contacting a sales rep, they are browsing the internet to find information about products and services. An important part of this process is looking up reviews, to make sure other consumers are happy with their purchase. Most consumers do their research and look for recommendations when doing everything from choosing a restaurant to an internet provider. And while a personal recommendation from friends and family often is considered what consumers trust the most, a recent survey found that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews just as much. The reason why so many customers are heavily influenced by reviews is that they view them as trustworthy content.
For you as a marketer, this means that online reviews can both make and break your business, especially if you’re a smaller company. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to manage your online reputation.
Make online reviews a part of of your PR plan
A good start is to consider online reviews as an important part of your PR work. Include it in your strategy and put up a clear structure for how to handle them. I mean, who doesn’t want to take advantage of the opportunity to have happy customers who speak up for your cause? Or when the review is not that nice, at least use it to show that you genuinely care for your customers.
Find out where you’re being reviewed
There are about a million and one review sites out there, many of them are focused on different industries. From general sites like Google, Facebook and Trustpilot, there are specific ones like Tripadvisor for tourism, Yelp for restaurants and even a site for rating university professors. Try to identify the sites used in your industry, and see what your customers are saying about you. This is where your potential customers will do their research.
Create accounts where needed and ensure that all your corporate information is correct and that you receive alerts for new reviews. That way, you can reply quickly, and take other necessary actions if needed. Aim to respond within 24-48 hours from the time a review has been posted. The quicker they hear from you, the more sincere your reply will feel to them. There are also a lot of tools for online reviews management like ReviewPush, Hootsuite and Reputology.
Answer ALL reviews
Not only is online reviews a great source of feedback that you can use to improve, but it is also a great way of engaging with your customers. By showing consumers that you care about your previous customers and publicly try to help them with their issues, you gain a lot of goodwill, and by this, you build brand trust.
Think of each negative review as an opportunity to show your customers that you care. It can feel frustrating to receive a negative, and perhaps unfair, review –but take a step back and view the situation from a customer’s perspective before replying.
And don’t forget to reply to the positive reviews. Your customers are advertising your company –Thank them.
Fuel your storytelling content
The best part of customer reviews is that they are providing you with insight to the things that matter the most to your audience. Look for what the positive posts have in common – and utilize it for your brand story. Why not use phrasings like “This is why our customers love us” or “Top rated customer service”. Reviews give you knowledge of what your customers value, and what value your product or service is adding to their lives.
Dare to ask for reviews
So how do you get good reviews online? For starters, you have to interact with your customers and provide them with good products and customer service. But you also need to make sure that your customers actually leave reviews about you. And how do you achieve that? By asking. In the famous words of the ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of shots you don’t take”. Several surveys state that over 70 percent of customers who are asked to write a review actually do write one.
But you also need to make sure you ask at the right time, or it might backfire. If you ask too soon, the customer might not have had time to try out the product or service yet, and not want to leave a review. The same can apply for asking too late, when the customer doesn’t remember how great the service was. It might also be the wrong time to ask for a review when the customer is dissatisfied.
A strategy for managing online reviews is an important piece of the puzzle of a successful PR plan. Read our latest guide, How to Create a PR plan, to learn more about how you create a strategy for your marketing and bring your PR in-house.